- Written by Marvis Stewart – proposer of resolution 2.
BACP 2021 AGM – Resolution 2 – In light of the ever increasing unpaid “volunteering” positions aimed at BACP registered qualified counsellors that the BACP communicates with said organisations through their Workforce Employment Strategy Lead to estate their support for paid employment.
Dear BACP Members
I have submitted a resolution (Resolution 2) to the bacp called ‘Qualified member employment’, seconded by Maria Albertsen. This resolution is about the issue of bacp members having to work for free after becoming qualified. I would like to share with you what inspired me and prompted me to submit this resolution. It’s been a few years in the works!
First of all, I would like to say that volunteering and indeed working for free has been a part of my life. I have gained so much from my volunteering experiences. I was Chair of governors at my children’s school because I wanted to be involved and understand the education system in England. I was a governor for seven years and I loved every bit of it even though it was hard work. I also loved volunteering at Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Centre at Southampton General hospital. I was humbled by that experience in ways that I cannot quantify or truly explain. Both of these volunteering jobs were a choice. I was part of these organisations because I wanted to and had the time, the means and the energy to invest in something that I thought was worthwhile. A few perks were also offered such as parking expenses, which were really appreciated.
I respect and honour people’s decisions to volunteer however and in whatever capacity they choose. Volunteering is a personal choice that I will always respect in others.
Years ago, as a trainee student, I was very much onboard with the required placement hours needed to achieve those coveted 100 hours that we work so hard for in counselling training. I was naïve back then, I thought if I worked really hard, I could show my organisation what a valuable asset I was and they would offer me a job (one of my placements had paid counsellors on their team). When I qualified, I decided to continue volunteering with my placement because I wanted to accrue hours for the bacp accreditation everyone was telling me I needed in order to be a “real, proper, competent” counsellor. So, I stayed in my placement, volunteering as a qualified counsellor. I did it because I loved the job, because at the time it seemed like the only choice I had, because I needed to get accredited so I needed the hours. It was a choice, a choice that I made hoping a paid job might be in the cards at some point. And then it happened! A few counselling jobs were advertised and I applied. I was confident that I would get an interview. I had been there for almost two years, I knew the system, the team, the job. Shockingly I was told the jobs were not open for volunteers and that I would not be considered for a job in the place that I was already working in. The truth and fact are that I was being discriminated against, they were other agendas in play within the organisation and no valid reasons were given as to why I would not be suitable to be paid for the job that I was already doing. I sought legal advice and I was told I had no rights as a volunteer. I was very hurt, disappointed, upset and I left soon after.
I started looking for jobs and found that volunteering (to accrue hours for accreditation) was the only realistic option at the time if I wanted to work in an organisation. Most positions required me to be fully qualified, to have my own professional/liability insurance, to hold a DBS, to either cover my own supervision costs or attend supervision within the organisation (mostly group supervision). I soon realised that I had to cover all these costs and of course the volunteering position also required me to commit a fixed amount of time to the organisation. I grew more and more despondent the more I looked for “jobs”. All the time I had spend training and in placement seemed to mean nothing.
I decided then that I would not work for free any longer. At the time, most organisations hiring were looking for bacp accredited counsellors (for paid jobs) and/or trainee students. I had just qualified so even though private practice would not have been my first choice (I wanted to work with a team of people) I soon realised that if I wanted to get paid for my work private practice was the only feasible way.
So that is what I did. I am happy with my decision to have gone into private practice. I am my own boss/leader and I have autonomy over my working hours but what I don’t have yet is financial security. Interestingly I started working with trainee counsellors and soon realised that of course they were also wondering and hoping, like me years back, to find a job once qualified. This is normal right? When people qualify after years and years of studying, they expect to find a paid job. This is not a privilege for counsellors, this should be the norm because it is the norm for most other professions. We do not have volunteer social workers, nurses, doctors, teachers, psychologists, paramedics, fire fighters as the norm. These are all helping professions, we all love what we do and want to help others. But counsellors are supposed to do their jobs out of the generosity of their hearts. What about our bills, our savings, our pensions? We are people that deserve a salary for our services. For some of us counselling may be a vocation as a well as a profession. Our love for the job and our wanting to help others should not be used as emotional blackmail or excuse to not pay us.
So, this resolution comes from my anger at the systems that keep counsellors down. The systems/organisations/agendas that keep counsellors trapped making them think that they have to work for free in order to gain experience, more hours, more CPD, more and more and more of everything before we are worthy of a salary. A newly qualified counsellor is already worthy of a salary!
Without us there are no services. Organisations that run on business models in which no counsellor is paid are in fact exploiting counsellors, using the loopholes that the systems create to keep the wheels of exploitation going.
I ask you please to vote for Resolution 2, so that bacp can start working for the benefits of its members, for our benefit. So, when organisations are setting their budgets, they make sure to set aside a decent salary for the most important workers in their counselling organisations, the counsellors.
Thank you for reading.
- If you are a BACP member then you should have received an email on Monday 2nd August 2021 asking you to vote in the 2021 motions and resolutions process. This emails contains your unique voter link where you can read full details regarding each motion and resolution, as well as voting options for a new Board Member. This is your chance to have your say in the governance and operation of BACP. It is your chance to use your voice and make a difference, please do take that opportunity!